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UPDATE: Egyptian Markets Tumble as Protest Fears Escalate

UPDATE: Egyptian Markets Tumble as Protest Fears Escalate

UPDATE: Violent protests continue to rock Egypt this week, with demonstrators demanding the ouster of the country’s longtime autocratic president, Hosni Mubarak. The tension increased today when Mohammed El-Baradei, a former top official at the UN’s nuclear watchdog agency and a high-profile Mubarak opponent, who had returned to Cairo in a bid to provide a leader for the mass movement, was placed under house arrest.

The unrest in the Arab world’s most populous country — a longtime US ally — comes on the heels of similar protests earlier this month in Tunisia, which forced that country’s president to flee into exile. Today marks a pivotal moment in the anti-Mubarak demonstrations, with the government shutting down Internet access in the country and cracking down on social-media access among demonstrators communicating with the outside world. Protesters have a large number of economic, political, and human-rights grievances. Widespread youth unemployment, rigged parliamentary elections in November 2010, and the prospect of President Mubarak (in power since 1981) beginning another term–or being replaced by his son–are the sparks that set these demonstrations off. The demonstrators are asking for Mubarak to step down and make way for an interim government to prepare for free elections.

Meanwhile in Washington late Friday, President Obama put Egypt’s embattled leader on notice that he should not use his soldiers and the police in a bloody crackdown on the protests in Egypt, edging away from a close American ally who has helped to maintain stability in the region. Addressing the nation from the White House after a day of rage across Egypt, Mr. Obama said he called Mr. Mubarak and told him “to refrain from any violence against peaceful protesters” and to turn a “moment of volatility” into a “moment of promise.” Declaring that the protesters have universal rights, he said, “The United States will continue to stand up for the rights of the Egyptian people.” Mr. Obama’s brief remarks came as a blunt reply to Mr. Mubarak, who spoke to his own people just one hour before and mixed conciliation with defiance as he dismissed his government but vowed to stay in office to stabilize Egypt.


CAIRO – Egypt’s benchmark index recorded its biggest drop in over two years in trading on Thursday, plummeting more than 10% as anti-government protests rattled investor confidence and left Hosni Mubarak’s regime facing its most serious challenge in years. The hasty decline forced a brief suspension of trading, according to some on-the-ground news reports. The benchmark EGX30 index closed down 10.5% to 5,646.50 points, capping a two day slide that brought its year-to-date losses to nearly –21%. The market had earlier tumbled 6.25% just 15 minutes into the session before trading was temporarily suspended. But the pause seemed to cement investor fears, and the drop continued with the market’s resumption.

The Thursday’s decline was on top of a 6.1% decline on Wednesday trading — a plunge fueled by the massive anti-government protests that mirrored earlier demonstrations in Tunisia that led to the ouster of that country’s president. “It’s clear today that the inability to control the situation in the streets yesterday is panicking investors,” said Ahmed Hanafi, a broker with Guthour Trading. “The drop we saw yesterday is being repeated. At this rate, it’s going to continue to fall hard

Despite government efforts to crush sometimes violent protest, several days of demonstrations against the almost 30-year rule of President Hosni Mubarak seemed to be taking a toll on the country’s economy on Thursday and galvanizing broader support beyond the streets. The secretary general of Mr. Mubarak’s ruling party said it was willing to open talks with the youths who have powered the protests, but offered no concessions. Safwat el-Sherif, the secretary general of the National Democratic Party, also called for restraint from both security forces and protesters on Friday, when more demonstrations have been called for. In response, on Wednesday, Egyptian the authorities outlawed public gatherings, detaining hundreds of people and sending police officers to scatter protesters who defied the ban and demanded an end to Mr. Mubarak’s rule. But protesters communicating on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have called for a major demonstration on Friday, the Muslim holy day and the start of the Egyptian weekend.

On Wednesday from his office in Vienna, Dr. Mohamed El-Baradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, that he would attend the Friday demonstrations and urged Mr. Mubarak to step down. “He has served the country for 30 years and it is about time for him to retire,” he told Reuters. “Tomorrow is going to be, I think, a major demonstration all over Egypt and I will be there with them.” He arrived in Cairo Thursday evening. Egypt has an extensive and widely feared security apparatus, and it deployed its might in an effort to crush the protests. But it was not clear whether the security forces were succeeding in intimidating protesters or rather inciting them to further defiance.

Abroad, there were growing expressions of concern from Egypt’s allies. The United States ambassador in Cairo, Margaret Scobey, called on the government “to allow peaceful public demonstrations,” and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reiterated that call in blunt remarks to reporters. The German foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, speaking to reporters, said, “We are very worried about how the situation in Egypt is developing.” But Egyptian officials, at least publicly, were mostly dismissive.

In a statement, Mr. Mubarak’s National Democratic Party reiterated the government’s assertion that the protests were engineered by the Muslim Brotherhood. Abdel Moneim Said, a member of the NDP and the chairman of Al Ahram, which publishes the state-owned newspaper of the same name, explained the government’s lack of concern. “The state is strong,” he said. “There is a history of there being a moment of exhaustion, and there is a kind of resilience on the part of the government. It happened with the terrorist groups.”

Source: Reuters, AP, NYTs, Yahoo! Finance Photo: Dubai Stock Exchange



Elison Elliott

Elison Elliott , a native of Belize, is a professional investment advisor for the Global Wealth and Invesment Management division of a major worldwide financial services firm. His experience in the global financial markets span over 18 years in both the public and private sectors. Elison is a graduate, cum laude, of the City College of New York (CUNY), and completed his Masters-level course requirements in the International Finance & Banking (IFB) program at Columbia University (SIPA). Elison lives in the northern suburbs of New York City. He is an avid student of sovereign risk, global economics and market trends, and enjoys writing, aviation, outdoor adventure, International travel, cultural exploration and world affairs.

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